Living with hedgehogs for over the past five years has turned into an adventure. When I got my first little hedgie in 2014 I had no idea what I was getting into. It was fun to learn their quirks and realize that the grumpiness never goes away. My first hedgehog was from a breeder, but the others came to live with me when they needed a new home. Each one taught me something new about hedgehog husbandry.
In honor of National Hedgehog Day today, I am answering hedgehog questions from my social media. (Yes, they share the same day as the groundhog. It is said that the groundhog actually could have been a hedgehog in Europe due to their hibernation patterns.)
How did you pick a hedgie as a pet?
Originally, I wanted to get a cute bunny, and had hundreds of images pinned of them on Pinterest. Then the Instagram revolutions of cute hedgehogs starting with Biddy the hedgehog began to take over my feed. They were so cute and small that I could not resist! When I made a comment to Ed he joked that he had, “a hedgehog guy.” Turns out a couple were breeding them in locally and I followed them on Facebook. A few months later they posted a litter ready for new homes. I pulled out cash and got my first hedgehog Prickles. She was little and perfect! Since then, my home has not been without a hedgehog.
Are they hard to take care of? I’ve always wanted one!
I would not say hedgehogs are difficult to take care of. But it can be tricky rearing them. It is important to research thoroughly before making a commitment. They have specific dietary and temperature requirements. Things that are okay for pets like guinea pigs and hamsters are not suitable for hedgehogs. No wheel should have any holes in order avoid their toes being caught and feet injured. (Ditto goes for those clear hamster balls.) They will hibernate and have organ shut down if they are kept in a room under 72 degrees without a secondary heat source.
However, they are low maintenance with daily socialization and live a quiet life.
What is the toughest part about taking care of hedgies.
Other than temperature mentioned above, it is difficult to tell when they are sick. They are good and hiding sickness until very serious symptoms begin to show. When this happens, they must be seen by an exotic vet that has experience with them. Sometimes in smaller communities one must travel further to find a vet that will treat hedgehogs. There is a directory of hedgehog approved vets here.
The other difficult part is the same as all pets. Losing them is so sad and I still miss all my hedgehogs that have passed on.
How long do they usually live?
Hedgehogs live between an average of 3-6 years. Some can live longer, but it is like seeing a 100 year old person when that happens. All of my hedgehogs have started showing health issues beginning at 3 years.
What is your favorite part of having hedgehogs as pets?
I love the hedgehog’s grumpy and sassy personality. I feel they are more expressive than a lot of small animals. Every hedgehog I have owned has its own personality. My current 2 are different as well. Lulu, my older female, will huff and puff in her cage. Then she will snuggle and sleep on my lap while I am watching television or reading. My younger male, Finn, will greet me every morning in his cage when I wake up to teach. He is curious and energetic. Therefore, he loves rooting around the pop up playpen I found on Amazon.
My hedgehogs have done well with my busy two job schedule. They are cheerful in the morning and do not mind me being gone during the day because they are asleep anyway.
Do they need daily exercise?
Yes, but they can get most of their exercise from a bucket wheel in their cage. My hedgehogs run most of the night on the wheel. This is because they will run miles in the desert in the wild. (American domesticated hedgehogs are a hybrid of 2 desert hedgehogs found in northern Africa.) I do make a point to let them explore around some safe areas supervised for enrichment. They should not be left ignored in their cages.
Are they social animals? How much time do you spend with them?
Hedgehogs by nature are prey animals. So they are cautious and reserved. They also have terrible eye-sight with great senses of hearing and smell. So they have a standoffish even angry nature. However, if you take time to spend every day handling your hedgehog they begin to associate your scent with someone they can trust. My hedgehogs are usually happy to see me once they get a good sniff. I try to spend 30 minutes a day with my hedgehogs and sometimes alternate which hedgehog I take out.
If you leave them be, they will become more and more difficult.
What monthly cost goes to caring for hedgehogs?
Most cost of owning a hedgehog goes into setting up the cage. That can range from anywhere to 100 or more. I probably have 150 in each hedgehog enclosure. The other big expense is Vet bills if they get sick. However, monthly costs are probably about 10-20 dollars. I use high quality cat food that a medium bag lasts months and insects as treats. (A container of live meal worms from PetSmart is less than 4 dollars.) The other cost is shredded paper bedding. I buy a 10 pound box from Amazon and it lasts over 3 months for one hedgehog. This year, I am looking to change to fleece linings for both hedgehogs to make their cages more sustainable and avoid the cost of buying bedding.
For More Information:
I must put a warning that I am not a veterinarian and am basing my answers on research as well as my experience. Best practices in hedgehog rearing are evolving and some things change. Things that were fine for my first hedgehog are now put to the side for different recommendations. There are some great resources if you want to know more. I recommend subscribing to Sploot News or finding websites like How to Hedgehog to start your research journey.
What do you love about hedgehogs?
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